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AZ 7, Rockies 1 - The Byung(-Hyun) and the Restless

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Record: 64-78. Change on last season: +21

Before yesterday's game, someone asked Bob Melvin how the season might have gone if Estes and Ortiz had not spent so much time injured. His reply? "There's no telling Everyone goes through injuries, so you can't use that as an excuse. Certainly, you'd like to have them the whole time. But there's nothing you can do about it except press forward."

An equally pertinent question might have been, how things might have gone if we hadn't thrown $10m at the pair, who have combined to go 11-13 with an ERA around five. However, in many ways, it seems unfair to lump Ortiz and Estes together. Up until the last couple of starts before his layoff - which can probably be blamed in part on his injury - Estes has been a very solid member of the rotation, and overall, has produced a quality start more often than not. Can't say that about Ortiz.

And Shawn continued the trend yesterday. There's no doubt that Coors Field is the hardest place in baseball to pitch. Even with the Rockies having a very poor season, they've still scored more runs than, say, Houston and - up until last night - Arizona. But Estes shut them out for six innings in his first game back. He mixed speeds effectively, and though he allowed five hits and four walks, turned the Rockies into a high-altitude version of the D'backs (Colorado was 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position).

On the other end, we were facing BHK, who seems to have found a home in Denver, as part of the Rockies' Dr. Evil-like plans to corner the global market in Korean pitchers named Kim. It's a genuine pleasure to see him find apparent happiness again, after what looks more and more like utterly incompetent handling in Boston. We always had a soft spot for Kim - his tragedies in Yankee Stadium are an indelible part of the 2001 World Series championship, but we always loved watching him pitch. And as a stranger in this strange land myself, I felt some empathy for his predicament.

Few pitchers resurrect their careers in Denver, but he has the best ERA of any of their rotation with 10+ starts, and kept us every bit as scoreless as Estes was going until the fifth innings - not many 0-0 ties survive that long at Coors, but this one did, until Chad Tracy connected on a 1-1 fastball and dispatched it to right field for a three-run homer.

We added two more in the seventh, including a home-run by Craig Counsell, and two again in the ninth (Glaus hitting his 31st of the year), but despite a 7-1 lead, things got interesting in the bottom of the ninth. With two out, Brandon Medders hit the Rockies' Luis Gonzalez, who already had three hits, in the ribs. He and Melvin were immediately tossed, with Jay Bell soon following.

Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi believed the hit was in retaliation for a pitch over Chad Tracy's head on August 7th, after Counsell stole second base in a 6-0 game. Melvin denied it: "The last place I'm ever going to try to hit somebody is with two outs in the ninth. That, to me, is not the right time to do anything. He's not trying to hit anybody there. If you end up hitting somebody, face the music a little bit later."

Medders was even more forthright: "I didn't know until [Melvin] told me after I had gotten tossed. I had no idea we were warned. I wanted to throw a pitch inside and it got away from me. I had no reason to hit anybody. I had two outs and already a strike on a guy. It definitely wasn't on purpose." Such ignorance does seem kinda odd, even though it's true that Medders wasn't around for the August 7th game - though the conspiracist in me whispers, his use was simply to add "plausible deniability". Might add a bit of spark to the rest of the series though!

Plenty of hits to go around: 15 in total, with two each for the C-Force (Counsell, Clayton, Clark) as well as Tracy and Green. After Estes's departure, Cormier, Groom, Medders - till he was ejected - and Bulger kept the Rockies in check, allowing one run on two hits, a walk and, ahem, an entire-accidentally hit batsmen (I'm sure) over the final three innings. Thanks to azdb7, Devin and Otacon for their comments in my (all-but) absence; might be a bit better today, as the boss isn't in. ;-)

Some disgruntlement is apparent among the log-jam of starters waiting their turn to pitch for Arizona. "I don't like it. But what can I do? I want to pitch every fifth day and they know that, but it's not my call. I'm not the manager," said Javy Vazquez, condemned to wait a week between outings. And it's not just in the rotation either; what of Brad Halsey and Oscar Villarreal? Their stay in the bullpen has apparently become more of an exile.

Congratulations to the Lancaster Jethawks, who came back from 7-1 down, in the deciding game of their first-round playoff series against High Desert. They scored four runs in the ninth to tie it, and Jeff Cook singled in the winning run in the 11th, to win 8-7. They now face Lake Elsinore in the finals. South Bend had already advanced on Thursday, sweeping Southwest Michigan with an 11-7 victory, batting around in a six-run fifth inning. They face the West Michigan Whitecaps. See Baby Backs: TNG for full reports.

And if you ever wondered who cleans up in the dugout, after the D'backs have finished chewing gum, spitting tobacco juice and splitting sunflower seeds, check out this article from the Banana. It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it...